Sunday, 18 December 2011

O Adonai

The prophet Isaiah
O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel,
qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
Isaiah prophesied:

"but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins." Isaiah 11:4-5 

"For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our ruler, the Lord is our king; he will save us." Isaiah 33:22

I was interested to discover this little fact about the "O antiphons": "The Os themselves already contain an answer to the riddled petitions they embody. Written out together across a page in Latin, the initial consonants of the antiphons (Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia) form a reverse acrostic spelling Ero cras — I will be there tomorrow. And so they make for that generous and rare thing, a prayer to God that is its own answer from God." (from Anglicans Online" )  So redemption is promised for the future.  Of course, one of the classic criticisms of the Church is that it is very good at promising paradise tomorrow to those whose today is sheer hell on earth.  The Holy Orthodox promised heaven to the Tsarist peasants if they kept quiet and didn't upset the system topped by their "little Father" the Tsar.

That isn't the prophetic vision: the vision of the Isaiah school of prophecy is a vision of justice for the most vulnerable. (And yes I do go with modern Biblical criticism on the authorship of Isaiah -tradition may say the book was written by THE Isaiah himself, but modern scholars have for over 100 yrs divided the book into 3 parts: Proto-Isaiah (chs 1–39), containing the words of the 8th century BC prophet & 7th century  expansions; Deutero-Isaiah (chs 40–55), a 6th century BC work by an author who wrote towards the end of the Babylonian captivity; and Trito-Isaiah (chapters 56–66), probably written by a group of authors in Jerusalem shortly after the exile.)  Of course, later interpreters of the Scriptures may put a different spin on what seems like a plain, straightforward and obvious text.  Isaiah 7:14 for example, where the prophet assures the King that God will save the Kingdom of Judah from the invading armies of Israel and Syria and that the sign which will prove this is the forthcoming birth of a child called Emmanuel, "God With Us". The Hebrew grammar suggests that the "young woman" is already pregnant and therefore not a virgin. However, the Greek-speaking 1st century AD author of Matthew 1:23 interpreted it as a prophecy that the Messiah would be born of a virgin.  And the Church has been stuck with this ever since.  We all tend to spin the Scriptures to validate our own point of view.  And course, I'm right and you're wrong/theologically unsophisticated/thick (delete what doesn't apply).  Well, that's what we tend to do anyway.

The Christian hope is that the 2nd coming, the arrival of the Kingdom of God, will bring true justice, God's justice, for all.  The Porsche in the driveway of the splendour of your Basillica will be utterly unimportant in comparison to your walkly justly and acting fairly.  Come that day of splendour and terror (and I imagine we'll all be bl**dy scared when it comes, even if we do live in love and trust with God and try to stress the joy and freedom of being a Christian) it is what we have to to bring the Kingdom nearer that will matter rather than our Wonga generating facility.  Will we fare well or fail?  I hope and trust we will but we have to do something about it.

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